These God-Awful Travel Stories Will Make You Cancel Your Next Vacation

Waking up in the wrong city, pissed-on luggage, kidnapping. Sometimes getting there isn't worth it.
February 28, 2018, 5:00pm
Photo by Getty Images.

Even people who love to travel have to admit: Sometimes it sucks. Badly. Unless your husband can wrangle up free flights to exotic locations on private government jets, flying can be a nightmare. Driving is often no better, and not just because America's roads are getting more and more unsafe.

But taking to the sky or roadways is something we all find ourselves doing at some point or another. As such, we asked friends and co-workers about their worst ever travel experiences, and the results make even our most hellish trip seem like a walk in the park.

Piss Take Mistake

About 15 years ago, I took an 11 hour bus from NYC to Toronto.

As you know, bathrooms on buses are, generally, pretty grim. But from the glimpses I’d gotten of the one on this particular bus, it seemed especially bad. Dark and stainless steel and filthy. Real Silent Hill kind of ambience.


Wanting to avoid it, I tried to hold my pee for as long as possible, but, eventually, it became too much to bear.

I went into the bathroom and shut the door, only to discover the light was broken. There was no window, and this was in the days before iPhone flashlights, so it was completely pitch black inside. I decided it would be better to pee in the sink than the toilet, as it was crotch-height and I didn’t want to get piss everywhere and make the toilet even Silent Hillier for the next user.

As I’d been holding it in for so long, the piss was very, very, very long. After what felt like 90 minutes of solid urination, I finished things up and started to head back to my seat.

When I opened the bathroom door, the majority of the people on the bus were staring at me.

Looking back into the bathroom, I saw that the sink was not connected to anything. Where there should’ve been a drainage pipe was actually just a hole that went straight through to the floor. The entirity of the contents of my bladder had run out under the bathroom door and down the length of the bus, dampening feet and bags in its wake.

I quickly darted back to my seat, and spent the rest of the journey pretending to be asleep. I’m not sure if people realized it was piss or not. But if you took a bus from New York to Toronto in, like, 2003 and your bag was damp when you arrived: Sorry. - Jamie, 32

O'Hare Scare

A few years ago, I took a trip to LA. It was a good time. The rental car company fucked up, and I got to drive around in a GTI like a semi-rich asshole. I got drunk alone on the boardwalk in Santa Monica and rode the carousel. I stayed with my friends in the Valley, which is the area in Los Angeles where they shoot porn, and believe me, if you're staying there with your friends in the Valley, they will bring this up as often as possible.

I was there for a week, and then I had to get on a redeye back to New York. I had an orientation for work at eight in the morning in the city, and couldn't be late. I had to return the rental car hours before my flight took off, so that's what I did. To kill time, I started drinking in the airport bar. I befriended a drummer in a punk band, who drank with me. We got incapacitated. I boarded the flight hours later, after five or six drinks, and the drummer happened to be sitting next to me. He suggested we continue drinking, and I've never been one to argue. I figured I'd sober up by the time we got back to the East Coast. I passed out, and so did he. When I woke up, I had no idea what time it was, but it was dark, and the plane was descending fast. It was the only moment in my life where I really thought I was going to die. The drummer was still sleeping, and I nudged him awake, hoping his being as alarmed as I was would calm me down. We touched down. "Are we in New York?" he asked me.


"I have no fucking idea," I said. We were not in New York. We were in Chicago. The plane had started losing oxygen and had to make an emergency landing. I spent eight hours in O'Hare throwing up. - Alex, 27

Deplane! Deplane!

So last year I was trying to fly from Heathrow to New York City, and they were having some kind of mechanical problems, so we couldn't take off. That meant we had to "deplane," a word I got very familiar with, and wait in the airport for a while. This was fine, it was OK, we got on the plane again. A long time passed. I watched the entirety of the original Total Recall because our in-seat TVs were working—but it turned out that the mechanical problem was still with us. So off the plane again, back to the airport. Then back on the plane. Where we were told that sorry, actually the flight crew had worked too many hours and couldn't actually travel on this flight, we needed to wait for a new crew. People were angry. I think one person had to be restrained by airport security on our third deplaning, though I didn't see that. We had been on the plane or in the airport for about ten hours at this point. They gave us these vouchers for the airport shop, and I bought all this disgusting food, like the most expensive things I could get—like $10 juice and giant candy bars I never ate. It didn't seem like real life. By this time the passengers were talking to one another a lot, and there were rumors about what was happening, like whether we needed to change gates. We were just sort of walking around the terminal like Tom Hanks in that movie I didn't see. The story ends the way all these stories end: We eventually just got on a plane and left. I think it took 18 hours? Something like that. The moral of the story, though, is that we ended up getting a few hundred bucks in compensation because airlines in the EU are required by law to do that in cases of long delays. The US should have that sort of thing! -

Harry, 31

Cable Cutters

In 2013, I was traveling from Boston to Baltimore with my kids, after my 18-month old daughter had surgery at Boston Children's Hospital. When we got on the plane, I noticed what seemed like an entire team of cable company employees were also on the plane with us, all dressed similarly.

Toward the end of the flight, my 18-month-old daughter got very, very sick. Like I said, she'd just had surgery, and the altitude on the plane made her oxygen levels drop. She was turning a purplish blue color, and I was panicking. Luckily there was a nurse sitting by me, so she jumped into action and began assessing her vital signs. We were debating how we should alert the crew when, suddenly, one of the members of the cable company team walked up to the front of the plane, with a film crew following. He started making announcements over the plane's com system as the other guys with him began handing out free iPads to everyone on board. The whole thing was a marketing stunt to advertise a new product. They were filming the whole thing as they handed out the iPads to everyone on board, and I ended up getting three—one for me and both of my kids. Talk about being panicked on film! There was one shot of me holding up an iPad with a stricken look on my face.


After all the commotion died down, we were able to alert the crew, and an ambulance met us at the gate when we landed a few minutes later. The Dish people felt horrible and were very sweet; they brought my daughter a stuffed animal while she was on the stretcher with the paramedics at the airport. Talk about up one minute, down the next—I've never been both so unlucky and lucky in one moment. -

Hilary, 41

Bus Boy

When I was in college, my family lived about a eight-to-ten-hour long Greyhound trip away. It sucked, but it was cheap and the only way I could get home to see them. One year, I was coming home for Thanksgiving, and every seat was taken but the one by the bathroom in the back. Sitting next to me were an exhausted father and his equally exhausted and cranky four-year-old son. The father told me they'd been traveling via bus for three days, and his son was miserable. When he wasn't sleeping (across both his father's and my lap), he was screaming. The entire bus hated them, but I felt bad; it seemed like they were in some kind of financial trouble, and it was obvious this guy really loved and wanted the best for his kid.

Halfway though my trip, we stopped to pick up more passengers. I ran out to take a piss and grab a roast beef from Arby's. I was gone maybe 15 minutes, and I came out of Arby's to see my seatmate being dragged off the bus in handcuffs, sobbing, while another cop carried his sleeping little boy. Turns out this guy had kidnapped his kid after losing custody in a messy divorce. I don't know how they found them—I assume one of the passengers must have seen his photo on the news or something and tipped off the driver. But man I felt pretty weird about the fact that I'd spent hours sitting next to and shooting the shit with a kidnapper! - Jacob, 24

What Not to Say to the TSA

I was flying back to California from Minnesota, after my bachelorette party, and one of my bags was flagged for search. They called me over to watch them go through it, and, for some reason, I thought it would be funny to say, "Careful when you open that, it might explode!" [Editor’s note: This is illegal. Do not do this.] This woman working for the TSA was naturally not amused, and gave me a stare so intense I immediately started to cry and apologize profusely. After she pulled me into a private pat-down room, she read me some speech about how I am at an airport and need to watch what I say. During the course of the search, the TSA agents found a plastic dick squirt gun, a 20-pack of penis straws, Mardi Gras beads, and a penis-shaped headband—all gag gifts from my bachelorette party. - Lauren, 28

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